A dad and his 13 year old daughter flying American Airlines from Seattle to Charlotte last week were shaken to their core when law enforcement met them on arrival. The flight’s crew had radioed ahead to report him as a suspected sex trafficker.
The pair were traveling to the man’s oldest daughter’s graduation. The first time he noticed something amiss was during the flight when he got up to use the lavatory. He returned to learn his daughter was being questioned,
“When I came back, my daughter had some wings. I was like, ‘oh, where did you get those from,’” he recalled.
De Jesus said she told him that a flight attendant came over and asked her if she was OK, where she was going, and who she was going to meet? He said he didn’t think much of it until the plane touched down.
The pair was met in Charlotte “by several individuals” including the head of security for the airport. They were led away for questioning, and nobody would tell them why. Eventually “law enforcement explained to him that flight attendants are trained to look for the signs of human trafficking.”
After they were released – she was his daughter and they were traveling to a family occasion, not to sell her – he reached out to the airline but American wouldn’t provide him with any response, until media got involved. Eventually they provided the following statement,
“Our frontline team members are trained to navigate a variety of safety issues, including recognizing the potential signs of human trafficking. We strive to create a positive, welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us and apologize for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.”
Airline and hotel employees are taught to use their prejudices to spot and report human trafficking, and this often works out badly. Flight attendants are told they need to be on the lookout, and you have to sympathize with the position that puts them in. Imagine if they didn’t say something when they could have stopped a bad situation? That would haunt them. So better to raise the accusation or flag innocent people for law enforcement to sort out. And that gives you situations like,
- An African American social service worker was traveling with a white baby and accused of kidnapping by an American Airlines flight attendant as a result.
- Armed Port Authority police boarded an American Airlines plane at New York JFK because a flight attendant saw an Asian American woman follow her hispanic husband to the lavatory (he was feeling unwell) and saw that they shared an orange juice. The flight attendant called for a sex trafficking investigation. It found their drivers licenses displayed the same home address because they were married, just different races.
- Southwest Airlines demanded to see Facebook posts when a white mother checked in with her mixed-race son, claiming this was ‘federal law’.
— Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) May 26, 2018
- frequent use of the “Do Not Disturb” sign (you’re tired and don’t want to be bothered)
- guests who avert their eyes or don’t make eye contact (you’re tired and don’t want to be bothered)
- people with “lower quality clothing than companions” (no one ever accused me of fashion)
- people who have “suspicious tattoos” (which just means you’re from Austin or Portland)
- having multiple computers, cell phones, and other technology (you’re a blogger)
- “presence of photography equipment” (you’re a blogger)
- refusal of cleaning services for multiple days (you ‘made a green choice’ or ‘fear Covid’)
- rooms paid for with cash or a rechargeable credit card (you have to unload your gift card purchases somehow)
- guests with few personal possessions (you refuse to check a bag because you’re a frequent traveler)
See something, say something, when you’re encouraging amateurs to do it, leads to so many false positives that real cases of sex trafficking seem likely to get less attention. Employees think they are ‘trained’ when they’re really using their prejudices – in this case against a Hispanic man traveling with a teenage girl.
(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)